On a Wednesday night about a month ago, I came up into my office after Lenten services and discovered, left on my desk, three books. The titles suggested someone thought I needed a little help with my joke telling. One was Church Chuckles, one was Rolling in the Church Aisles and the last was Laugh and the Whole Church Laughs With You. I wonder if that last one is true, else why give me these new joke books?
Today is our Holy Humor Sunday. We all know it is being downsized due to our main actors and actresses moving away. So it has been left up to me, with some help from some of you, to help us celebrate the Easter Laugh this year.
I've had some mighty weird dreams lately. The Greek letters Alpha and Omega are used in the reading from Revelation. Their use reminded me of this dream. True story, a few weeks ago, I was sleeping and I dreamed I was translating Greek sentences. So I thought, that must mean I am so good at Greek, I can read it in my sleep. I actually wrote this dream down, it was March 17 and the word I was stuck on was Kal-el. I'm not sure, but isn't that the name of Superman when he lived on Krypton?
I better read a joke from my new books; The Sunday school teacher was telling the story of Lot and his wife. She told them that when Lot's wife looked back, she turned into a pillar of salt. Little Timmy raised his hand to share, “Once, when my Mom looked back, she turned into a telephone pole.”
After Bible Study on Tuesday, Tina asked me what the theme of Holy Humor was going to be. It caught me off guard a bit as we've always had a rather specific theme; production plan etc. I told her the theme was laughter. And I think we can draw that from our psalm for today, “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his surpassing greatness!” How? With trumpet, lute, harp, tambourine, dance, strings, pipe, cymbals... I'll add laughter. The psalmist concludes, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” That is what we are to about today.
But it is hard, isn't it. We think of the hundreds killed in Sri Lanka while praising the Lord on Easter. We think of the Church in China where they need to meet in secret to praise the Lord. We think of those in our church family who are unable to gather with us as we meet to praise the Lord. And it can bring us down, it can bring up questions about praising the Lord in the midst of evil and oppression and illness. But what is the alternative? Stay home and be depressed? Worry and complain about the state of the world? Jesus warned us that we will have sorrow and pain and troubles in this world. But he didn't end there. He promised that he has overcome the world, that we live in a place that overpowers the evil of this world. The devil thought he had won when Jesus died on the cross. But Jesus had the last laugh. The devil rejoices when evil men carry out evil deeds, but Jesus will have the last laugh. We may not see it now, and we may suffer greatly now, but God works in all things to bring forth good. God gets the last laugh.
Douglas Ridley wrote a poem about the Easter Laugh, “The devil knew it was a trick, a trap, but he couldn't help himself. He had to try to seize the opportunity to fry the Son of God... to crucify God's chosen one would mean he'd won; defied the odds and give Almighty God a slap.
Then Easter dawned; an empty tomb! Praise God! The devil lost again. He'd hoped he'd won, but no, his evil scheme had come undone. O, what a trick God played on him—a nod from God to call him April Fool. Ah, 'tis an April Fool the devil was, and is.”
Here's a Good Friday question for you: Have you ever wondered what the friends of Joseph of Arimathea might have thought about him giving away his new tomb to Jesus? They might have asked, “That was such a beautiful, costly, hand-hewn tomb. How could you give it away like that? Joseph could have replied, “Well, he only needs it for the weekend.”
The tomb couldn't hold Jesus. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! And so we celebrate. And jokes are not always the way we celebrate, but it is one way. Here's one from Shirley Good. I've taken a few liberties with it but it is the basic joke. Roger and Bob and I all die and go to heaven on the same date. St. Peter loads us into a great white limousine and brings us to the “mansion” Jesus promised. I got off first, a nice little bungalow, nothing fancy, but nice. The limousine drove on to a much fancier neighborhood; mansions with great yards and many staff to run it. He stopped and told Roger and Bob that they had their choice of mansions. They were a bit confused and asked why their pastor, who preached and cared for the congregation got such a small house; why did they deserve these fancy mansions? The driver replied, “When Pastor Gordy preached, the people slept; when you two drove, the people prayed!”
This one is from Kay. Now I think our expectations for this joke should be very high, we know Kay has high standards for jokes. How do we know that,you may ask...because she seldom laughs at my jokes. Here's hers:.
Joe asked God, "God, how long is a million years to you?"
God replied, "To me, it's about a minute."
Joe asked, "God, how much is a million dollars to you?"
God said, "It is like a penny to me"
So Joe asked for a penny.
God said, "Sure, in a minute."
And from Bev, Three pastors from the South were having lunch in a diner. One said, “Ya know, since summer started I’ve been having trouble with bats in my loft and attic at church. I’ve tried everything — noise, spray, cats — nothing seems to scare them away.” Another added, “Yeah, me too. I’ve got hundreds living in my belfry and in the attic. I’ve even had the place fumigated, and they won’t go away.” The third said, “I used to have that problem too, then I confirmed all mine and made them members of the church … Haven’t seen one back since!”
I believe since we are created in God's image; and since we have a sense of humor, God must have a sense of humor. Maybe we see a hint of that in creation; have you seen a platypus? Or how about a spitting Lama? Snow forecasts popping up when it is 70 degrees out?
And then there are the tricks God plays with my memory. I spent 10 minutes on Thursday trying to remember the name of the Scottish instrument that has a bag with pipes sticking out of it! That is the truth. I'm not the only one. Tom Townsend came up with a solution for his forgetfulness. It seems he often forgot to send flowers to Ruth on their anniversary. So he opened an account with a local florist so they would automatically send flowers every year on their anniversary with a card signed, “Your loving husband, Tom.”
It worked until the year Tom saw the flowers on the dining room table and said, “What nice flowers. Where did you get them?”
The Apostle John wrote the book of Revelation while exiled on the Island of Patmos. It is at its root about God's victory over sin, over death, over the devil. And we have that victory because of the victory Jesus won on Easter and that victory is eternal. And so John wrote, “To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” And we don't necessarily glorify God by our laughter, but we can celebrate God's glory by sharing the joy of laughter. And our laughter can change us. The Proverbs tell us that laughter is good medicine. Technically, it says a merry heart, Proverbs 17: 22 “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.” And medical science backs this up. Medical science shows that laughter actually produces chemicals in our body that relieve stress and enhance one’s physical and mental health.
I will conclude with a couple of my stories. Both I have used before, but if your memory is anything like mine, most of you won't remember them. The first is one I used it for Easter some years ago. Here it is with some small changes: Ole, Lena, and little Ole went to the big city for the first time. They were walking down the street and entered a fancy dept. store. Little Ole spotted something that caught his eye, a shiny metal door that was cut into a wall of black marble. Big Ole and Lena stood beside him and as they studied it, an elderly, gray haired lady walked up and pushed a button on the wall next to the door. The door opened and she walked into the little room behind the shiny door. The doors slid closed and they noticed the numbers above the door counting up.
The family wondered about it, then they noticed the numbers descending again. They were surprised when the shiny doors opened and a beautiful, curvacious young lady walked out.
Little Ole said, "What kind of machine is dat, Pa?" Big Ole replied, "I don't know little Ole, but push dat button and shove your Ma in.
A point... when we are followers of Christ, our lives are changed. For some, it happens in an instant, for most of us we journey along, doing the best we can, trusting in the grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. As we recognize Jesus as Lord, God sees us as beautiful, fully righteous children.
Second from the Dick Van Dyke show: Julie and I like to shop in the Croosroad's Mall in St. Cloud—well Julie likes to, I tag along. But we do occasionaly visit the men's store. Halberstad's. One day we noticed a sign, Big Sale: slightly irregular suits just $59.99! So we went in, tried one on...(the rest is a demonstration, sorry for those reading this online)
Moral: We will all face things in this life that don't fit; troubles, sorrows, grief. God's grace and peace are not a one size fits all; God comes to us in our valleys in ways that fit us. Each of our journeys of faith are unique. And grace for living comes in different ways; one size doesn't fit all. We all recognize God in many sized, facets and colors. To laugh and rejoice is one way we can recognize and celebrate the joy of the Lord. Let us echo again the words of the psalmist, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” Amen.